The Maryland Heights Police Department says its policies were not violated when a woman pulled over for a traffic stop earlier this month had to be “restrained” by a police dog.
The woman, Siane Moore, posted photos of her injuries in a public Facebook post Tuesday, which appear to show torn flesh and bite marks on her right arm. Another photo shows a bare spot on her scalp where she claims an officer yanked out a hunk of her hair.
“Friday August 17 Maryland Heights police pulled me over saying my tints on my windows were too dark then proceeded to tell me they needed to search my truck even WITHOUT my consent,” Moore wrote in the post. “Next thing I know Iâ€™m being jumped by 2 big white police officers who pulled out my hair and their dog who bit my right arm.”
The post quickly went viral.
In a written statement, Maryland Heights spokesman Craig Workman confirms that the August 17 traffic stop did occur, and that Moore was indeed pulled over for “an unlawful amount of tint” in her windows.
Workman says, however, that the initial traffic stop didn’t involve a police dog until the officer smelled marijuana in the car. That â€” along with what he characterizes as the “subsequent lack of cooperation” by Moore and a female passenger â€” led the officer to call for backup and a drug-sniffing dog, according to the department’s statement.
“Lawful attempts to physically detain the occupants at the scene led to an assault on one officer by the driver and the subsequent restraint of the driver by a police canine,” the statement continues.
In a subsequent email, Workman alleges that the dog only bit Moore after the dog’s handler was attacked.
“The officer that was attacked was the drug sniffing dog’s handler,” Workman writes. “When these dogs sense their handler is under attack, they are trained to restrain the attacker. The dog does that using its mouth.”
Moore’s gruesomely mauled arm isn’t the end of her problems with Maryland Heights. Moore has been cited for assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and possession of a controlled substance. (City ordinances allow for citations if someone has 35 grams of less of marijuana or five grams or less of hashish.) Moore’s passenger is also charged with resisting or interfering with an arrest.
It would be hard to overstate just how terrifying a dog can be when its jaws are sunk into a limb. Alarming injuries that can result from police dogs, and a 2017 investigation by NPR’s All Things Considered notes that these incidents are increasingly being documented on video: “The new generation of videos is capturing scenes of K9 arrests that are bloodier and more violent than imagined by the public. An NPR examination of police videos shows some officers using biting dogs against people who show minimal threat to officers, and a degree of violence that would be unacceptable if inflicted directly by the officers.”
Even so, NPR noted, juries are often skeptical about such claims. Los Angeles attorney Donald W. Cook told the radio show it’s the “The Rin Tin Tin Effect” â€” “juries think of police dogs as noble, and have trouble visualizing how violent they can be during an arrest.”
RFT spoke with Moore briefly on Wednesday over Facebook messenger, but despite initially expressing interest in talking, she has yet to come through. We’ll update this post if we learn more.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com